On the Advent of Our Deaths
It’s Not Everyday a Blogger Turns 108

Ronni’s Little Red Car



When I reached driving age, at 16, I lived in a suburb of San Francisco – Sausalito, California. Public transportation there, as in most suburbs to this day, was almost nonexistent. A car was a necessity and I was as excited as any 16-year-old new driver when, in 1957, I got my 1947 Chevy coupe.

It was in terrific shape having previously been owned, literally, by that proverbial little old lady who drove it to church on Sunday. Now I’m that little old lady. The only difference is that instead of church, I drive to the market and Home Depot with an occasional 100-mile-trip here or there.

When I married, we bought a new, 1965 Mustang unaware, then, that it would become a classic.

Over the years, I came to dislike owning a car, even that little beauty. Cars always want something: gas, oil, tires, window washer juice, anti-freeze, insurance, inspections, etc. and something that is costly to fix breaks with regularity. There is an old saying that a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money. I felt that way about cars.

So when my then-husband and I moved to Manhattan (where a car is a liability and public transportation choices are many) and sold our car, a great burden was lifted. I remained happily car-less for the next 40 years, renting when there was the occasional need.

From time to time, particularly when I was in Los Angeles where people are defined and judged by the kind of car they drive, friends showed off their Mercedes, BMWs and other even more exotic cars to me. I’m sure I disappointed them by exhibiting little interest. That the car would get me from here to there without incident is all I cared about.

In all those 40 years without a car, the only one I could identify was a Volkswagen bug. All the rest looked alike to me – and still do. Then, I few years ago, a new car began turning up on the streets during my walks around Greenwich Village – a unique, classic, gloriously retro shape that turned out, when I tracked it down, to be a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Wow! I told a friend. If I ever have a reason to need a car again, that’s what I want, never thinking it would come to pass.

Still, it was disheartening, as I planned my move to Portland, Maine, in 2006, to realize I would need to own a car. All those irritations of ownership – gas, oil, tires, etc. – would again become part of my life so as long as I would need to endure that, I determined to get the car I wanted – and I wanted that PT Cruiser in red.

With the help of a friend, Neil Thompson, who knows everything there is to know about cars, it happened – and even in the color I wanted which I hadn’t dared hope for.

And guess what? Those ownership irritations are not as bad as I remembered. Cars have come a long way in 40 years; they are easier to care for and although I miss the 24-cent-a-gallon gas of my youth, not so expensive that it breaks the budget.

I'll never have the kind of love affair with a car that I've seen in friends and the next car I buy will undoubtedly be a hybrid or whatever energy-green invention has come along by then. It is unlikely to be as cute as a PT Cruiser, but that is several years off and for now, I have to admit that I love tooling around town in my little, red retro car. It's just my size, just the right color and it's fun to drive.

If anyone had told me I’d ever feel that way about a car, I’d have sneered. But you never know - in life and even in old age - how your attitudes will change.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior has a short, little tale of teenage transgression titled The Skeleton.]


Ronni, I love your blog. So glad I discovered it about a month ago.
I like your car. I have always had to have one in the area that I live.
Suburbs of Nashville, Tn.
Have to replace mine soon. Might look at one like your red car.
Have a wonderful day.

I love your little car, Ronni, and have also admired the Chrysler PT Cruiser from a distance. Glad to see you got one. Great choice!

With vanity plates, no less!

Charming, cute, and useful too. When my husband decided to buy one that got the best milage instead of the PT Cruiser, darn it, he got a Toyota Corolla. I insisted on red. At least we get 41 mpg. It's darling.


The first time I saw a PT Cruiser I was completely puzzled. I couldn't figure out if it was a 1930's car that had been restored or a new model.I had no idea what it was, but I thought Cary Grant should be driving it; with Irene Dunne in the passenger seat!

It was in a shopping center parking lot and drew a lot of attention. I walked around and around that car and the more I looked the better I liked it.

I especially like the red color you chose.Perfect for the cruiser....
Cary and Irene would approve!

Rented a blue PT Cruiser on a recent trip--fun, fun, fun. Loved the little touches, like the dash clock. I may have missed it, but is there a remote release from the driver's seat for the rear hatch? That would have made it perfection.

Also, how's your dealer for service?

I've had a longer relationship with Toyota dealers for longer than most marriages last today, and believe me, this is a match made in heaven.

So many automotive types condescend to women (of all ages, of course, but it's worse for us) or cheat us whenever possible, but this has never happened to me at Toyota...and that's a sample in 3 states.

I have had three Toyotas in my life, all gems of reliability to start with, but even the routine maintenance is (nearly) painless if you feel the dealer is competent and honest.

I love your little car, Ronni. Being in L.A. with our public transportation dicey at best (but getting better), cars are a must. I've personally had Hondas the past several years but I'd like a hybrid as my "last" car. I say that because I drive my cars gently and keep them for long periods of time, so the next car might take me to my hopefully happy ending.

Seniorwriter's little red car(s):

Right on! You've got the color right, but mine is a Mini Cooper. If anyone wants to see my little red car, here is a llnk:


Your little car is very popular in the Netherlands. I was surprised by the number of them I saw over there. This is because cars are taxed based on weight and fuel efficiency. Smaller cars with good gas mileage are taxed less and so very appreciated. Its unique look helps too.

When I no longer have need of a minivan, I am turning my Chrysler Town & Country into one of those!!

Great looking car. How do you keep it so clean and shiny?

Oh, I love that car! The first time I saw one I thought it looked like an old gangster roadster. It has such an attitude.

I’m with you all the way on the car stuff. If it gets me there, that’s all I need to know. When people ask questions about my car, I say “It’s silver.” My husband could identify everyone he knows on the planet by the car they drive, if they were to pass us on the road. Just now there are 3 close neighbors on our cul-de-sac who have some type of grayish station wagon. Without looking out the window, my husband can identify which one is going by – just from the sound! I couldn’t identify them if they drove into my kitchen!

I also fell in love with the first PT Cruiser I ever saw! Love ‘em!! I’ve only seen a few here in the Stockholm area.

Since you’re not the only one living in your house there, and the driveway looks like it’s only wide enough for one car, how does that work? Just wonderin’.

Paula: if there is a remote release for the hatch, I haven't found it, probably because I've never had a reason to look. I just use the back for groceries so far.

Re dealer: I bought this car used in Pennsylvania - it's a 2004. (By the way, don't ever buy a car in another state (PA) from where you live (NY) and try to insure it in that state for a short time until you move to a third state (ME). It was a nightmare - literally a week of phone calls and in the end, could not be done.)

I've found a terrific auto service place here which takes excellent care of me and my car.

Chancy: It's not like I work at keeping the car shiny. Just about the time it's getting dingy looking, it rains and the car miraculously looks like the photo above.

Nikki - re your silver car: for those 40 years that I rented cars, when the agency asked what kind I wanted, I always said, "red" so I could find it in a parking lot.

Parking: There are three owners in my condo and we rotate driveway rights each week. On our two off-weeks, we park in the street which, thankfully, is much easier than in New York City. When all cars are required to be off the street on snow emergency nights, we can cram all three cars into the driveway.

Lovely car. It reminded me of the night before last when there was a programme about The Red Hatters, which I understand began in America. This was British TV and they were covering a grand meeting of lots of chapters from around Britain - all dressed in red hats and purple dresses and having FUN! That's what your car is for I hope Ronni!

Love the lines of the PT Cruiser....But it has a very thirsty engine. Some kind of fuel injected gasoline.....I value low gas mileage....So I will have to worship from afar....

Yup, Ronni. Sure enough. It's an emotional relationship with a motor vehicle. Good luck explaining it to your old chums in Manhattan, but lots of us in rural and exurban America understand it.

It's happened to me twice: once with the green Chevy pickup truck we bought in 1972 (maybe it was the white pinstriping) and again with the black '97 Nissan Maxima I've been driving since 1999.

My daughter, seeing how smitten I was with it, quickly dubbed the Maxima "the Love Machine." I was took weak to resist, and so "the Love Machine" it has been.

Ah Ronnie,

I live in that beautiful S.F. "suburb" across the Golden Gate bridge from S.F... Sausalito - and two of my neighbors along the hill also have little red cars

Will think of you when I see them scooting down towards Richardson Bay (where I scull)
- Kare

I just traded in my red PT Cruiser bought the first year they came out for more than I should have paid for it, waiting about 3 months for special order. I loved driving it. Lots of headroom. Easy to get in and out of. A great car as far as comfort goes. And I absolutely got used to and adored the compass on the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, it didn't have the pep for the mountainous roads we have to drive here in Utah...it struggled to get up sometimes, especially in the winter. In January I traded it in for a hybrid. Now, instead of 18-20 mph about town I get 40-41 with around 48 on the highway. I'll never forget my old Petey, but I love my Fenry (Honda) almost as much!

Chrysler and Volkswagen are brands that will not let you down. Currently i am driving a toyota camry, the only complain of owning a car is the rising petrol price!

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